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North Dakota zoos take precautions against bird flu

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MINOT, N.D. (AP) — Many of the birds at Minot's Roosevelt Park Zoo won't be available for viewing when the zoo opens for the season Saturday, as officials take precautions against bird flu.

The deadly virus has rapidly spread among poultry in the Midwest. Two commercial poultry farms in North Dakota have been affected, costing producers more than 110,000 birds. The poultry industry in neighboring Minnesota has been hit even harder, and officials announced Thursday that a hawk in western Minnesota was the first wild bird in that state to test positive for the bird flu.

Visitors to the Minot zoo will be able to see birds in the zoo's aviary, the Minot Daily News reported. Other birds that are free-roaming, or considered endangered or very susceptible to disease, won't be available for viewing. That includes the zoo's popular penguins.

"The majority of our bird collection will be kept indoors at least for the early part of spring and summer until we know really what's going on," zoo veterinarian Ann Olson said. "We're going to be tracking the situation very closely for the next couple weeks."

Other zoos in the state also are taking precautions. Workers at Dakota Zoo in Bismarck have emptied water sources to try to eliminate the number of wild birds that flock to the zoo for food and shelter.

"We'll never be able to keep all of the wild birds out, but we can reduce the numbers that we think may contribute to the spread of the virus," Assistant Zoo Director Rod Fried told KXMB-TV.

The Bismarck zoo also is keeping waterfowl and free-range chickens indoors and keeping them away from the public. Workers who have birds of their own are being asked to be extra cautious.

"We installed foot baths in different areas in our bird section so the keepers will go in, they'll disinfect their feet before they go in and after they leave," Fried said.

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